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Airbnb: Long Island hosts earned more than $15 million last year

Noushin Kiai, of Great Neck Village, illustrates how

Noushin Kiai, of Great Neck Village, illustrates how she prepares a room for a new tenant April 5, 2016. Kiai recently began renting a room in her home through Airbnb. Credit: Chris Ware

Hosts for 8-year-old online home-sharing app Airbnb Inc. on Long Island booked $15.4 million in revenue in 2015, according to newly released data.

The closely held San Francisco-based home-sharing service reported that it had nearly 1,400 hosts in Nassau and Suffolk counties last year. Those hosts booked stays averaging $254 per night with a typical stay of 3.6 nights.

Airbnb is growing rapidly, but faces challenges on Long Island and elsewhere from municipal tax and regulatory authorities.

The company, valued at a recent $25.5 billion, forecasts that revenue will climb from $250 million in 2013 to $10 billion in 2020, according to The Wall Street Journal. The upper range of that forecast would rival the 2015 annual revenue generated by Henry Schein Inc., Long Island’s largest public company.

In a March interview on the “Charlie Rose Show,” Airbnb Chief Executive Brian Chesky said the company has plenty of room for growth.

“It’s the beginning,” he said. “We have two million homes. I think there’s every possibility that you’ll see a factor of ten.”

That revenue is being driven by hosts like Noushin Kiai of Great Neck Village. Kiai said that she makes extra income by renting a room through the online service. A recent listing set the price for a private room at $104.

In her travels in Europe, Kiai found property owners renting rooms through Airbnb, “so I said, why not me?”

A regional lodging industry group said that traditional hotels and motels, which employ more than 70,000 people on the Island, continue to wield a far greater economic impact.

Mike Johnston, president of the Long Island Hospitality and Leisure Association, said that revenue figures for Long Island’s 359 hotels and motels were unavailable, but that their approximately 18,000 rooms generated about $200 million in state and local taxes alone.

Jan Marie Chesterton, president of the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association in Albany, said the group plans to mount a push before the end of the legislative session in June.

The industry group, representing about 1,100 hotels and motels statewide, estimates that Nassau and Suffolk counties are losing $1.4 million per year in uncollected hotel taxes to Airbnb listings. The association is seeking legislation that requires hosts to collect applicable taxes and imposes safety, health and fire regulations in line with those required of hoteliers.

“It’s important that we get something done,” Chesterton said.

Josh Melter, Airbnb’s head of public policy for New York, said in a statement that the company would favor state legislation that “would enable us to collect and remit taxes on behalf of hosts.”

Municipalities on Long Island and elsewhere also have sought to curb services like Airbnb. In August, Southold made it illegal for residents to rent their homes for fewer than 14 nights, but some residents have been challenging that town law.

Johnston acknowledged that the hotel industry is feeling the heat from services like Airbnb. If a hotel room is unrented for 40 weeks, he said, “that’s close to $30,000 in sales. It has an impact.”

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